Pelosi: Cruz, McCain births are different matters

Greg Nash

Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) suggested Thursday that, when it comes to questions of U.S. citizenship, not all foreign births are the same.

The House minority leader cited "a distinction" between Sens. John McCainJohn McCainYes, let’s set politics aside on sage grouse conservation Democrats pounce on Cruz's Supreme Court comments Obama's right to tackle redistricting, but it won't be easy MORE (R-Ariz.), who was born on a U.S. military base in Panama, and Ted CruzTed CruzDemocrats pounce on Cruz's Supreme Court comments Brent Budowsky: An epic battle for the future of Congress Cruz: Precedent exists for keeping Supreme Court short-staffed MORE (R-Texas), who was born in Canada to a U.S.- citizen mother. 

“I do think there is a distinction between John McCain being born to a family and serving our country in Panama than someone born in another country,” Pelosi told reporters in the Capitol. “But, again, this is a constitutional issue that will either be decided or not.

“My opinion means nothing here.”

The issue of Cruz's citizenship status has become an issue on the presidential trail after Donald TrumpDonald TrumpThird-party candidate McMullin: We can win Idaho and Wyoming Pence's plane skids off runway in New York Trump lashes out over 'illegal' Access Hollywood tapes MORE, the GOP front-runner, began questioning Cruz's eligibility for the White House. 

On Wednesday, Trump said he's pressing the question to eliminate the potential threat to the Republicans' White House chances should Cruz win the GOP nod.

“I’m doing this for the good of Ted,” Trump told CNN. 

McCain, who faced some of the same questions when he was the GOP nominee in 2008, is also carving a distinction between his situation and that of Cruz.

“It was a U.S. military base,” McCain said Wednesday on “The Chris Merrill Show,” a local Arizona radio program. “That’s different from being born on foreign soil, so I think there is a question. I am not a Constitutional scholar on that, but I think it’s worth looking into.” 

Cruz, for his part, has pushed back hard. He's emphasized that he never had a Canadian passport, dismissing the story as a “non-issue” being drummed up by the media.

“The media, with all due respect, love to engage in silly sideshows. We need to focus on what matters,” he told CNN Wednesday.

“The Constitution and the laws of the United States are straightforward,” he added. “The very first Congress defined the child of a U.S. citizen born abroad as a natural-born citizen.”

Pelosi made clear that she's not really interested in the internal GOP primary debate, characterizing the Cruz controversy as “inside baseball” that's “up to them to decide.”

“I didn't pay any attention to it,” she said. “I'm more concerned about the fact that Republicans in Congress think that trying to stop gun violence in our country is a distraction; that their first legislative act is to defund Planned Parenthood. 

“That's really what my focus is, not where Ted Cruz was born."